Have you ever tried to start a con­ver­sa­tion at a con­cert? Or at a lively New Year’s party? Did you meet some­one really cool and go hoarse try­ing to get to know that per­son? How loud it is and how much is going on are all part of the fun—until you are look­ing for some­thing more.

Try­ing to start and have a mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tion in the mid­dle of a news­feed is a sim­i­lar expe­ri­ence. It is pos­si­ble, maybe even com­mend­able, but it doesn’t feel as nat­ural as leav­ing a casual witty com­ment and mov­ing on. Have you ever gone to a brand’s page to learn more and tried search­ing for a topic? You can’t. That is by design and at this point, short-form, photo– and video-heavy sharable con­tent is an art form. Take a look at this year’s Shorty Awards.

Get­ting lucky

Think back to our party exam­ple. What if you could step out­side to get some fresh air and talk? You may not go back to the party for a while. You may decide to meet up later for cof­fee. You found who you were look­ing for. It is the same expe­ri­ence with con­tent. We have all entered a ques­tion into Google and got lucky whether or not we pressed the “I’m feel­ing lucky” but­ton. Some­one else asked that very same ques­tion, got sev­eral responses, and posted which one worked. You’re done as soon as you started.

Have you noticed these links all go to a com­mu­nity? Com­mu­nity sites rep­re­sent the tribal knowl­edge of a group of like-minded indi­vid­u­als. When you visit a com­mu­nity you don’t just get a snap­shot of what is new, you have choices for how you’d like to engage, and you ben­e­fit from what oth­ers think is most valu­able. For exam­ple, you can search for what you are look­ing for or browse top posts. In social media, there is a loss of valu­able infor­ma­tion and con­nec­tions that aren’t nec­es­sar­ily short-form, and are buried in the feed as soon as they are posted.

Social net­works or owned branded communities?

Both. The best social strate­gies include both social net­work par­tic­i­pa­tion and owned social communities.

Face­book and Twit­ter are stream of con­scious­ness. What­ever is new and shiny has a place. And that place is often in line or on the train—places where you have a few min­utes and want to be enter­tained. Sixty-five per­cent of time spent on social net­works is spent on mobile. I do it too. It is a guilty plea­sure for me akin to celebrity mag­a­zines and real­ity TV.

When think­ing about how to con­nect with your cus­tomers and ulti­mately get to know them, it is impor­tant to remem­ber their frame of mind and inten­tions. Peo­ple on social net­works are curi­ous, open, and look­ing to be enter­tained. This is a great place to get their atten­tion. Peo­ple who come to your com­mu­nity site are look­ing to engage. They have a goal. Maybe they got a new bike and are look­ing for rec­om­men­da­tions on good places to ride, a way to con­nect with other enthu­si­asts, or tips and tricks. They are look­ing for an expe­ri­ence. It is a dif­fer­ent type of atten­tion and the results and rewards are very different.